My last post had only two comments after a week, and I couldn’t quite understand why. Was it because I’d posted on a Friday when no one was reading? Was it because the post was, as usual, too longwinded? The topic mattered to me–offering positive feedback on kids’ writing–so why didn’t it resonate with more readers? And why did just two comments bother me so much in the first place?
I started looking for answers in my blog stats, which is always a bad idea. Studying them, I noticed that while I’ve always had a steady increase in subscribers and blog visitors, the increases over five years have been pretty small and plodding.
I decided that I was tired of being baffled by blog stats. After five years of searching them for upward trends and clues to what readers want, I’ve come to the conclusion that there is no logic to it.
I realized that I was tired of doing lots of things I thought I was supposed to do to raise those stats–updating my Facebook page, writing and responding to tweets, visiting blogs of readers and leaving comments. So I stopped for a while.
I reconsidered my plan of focusing on the blog this fall and putting aside my other writing. I thought about the eBook I bought on blog-building and the notes I’d written–Make a welcome page for new readers. Make a new tagline that better reflects what I’m doing here. Consider adding a pop-up inviting readers to subscribe to my Facebook page–and decided that I was sick of blog-building. Sick of looking at my blog as if it were a Lego spaceship that could be built up by following a step-by-step diagram.
I asked myself where this five-year compulsion to gain more readers comes from and realized that it seemed necessary if I was ever going to publish the book I got the audacious idea to write four-and-a-half years ago. (I’m not talking about my Workshops Work! book. Oh no. That was merely meant to be a chapter in The Big Book on Writing that I’ve been working on.)
I thought about that book. Thought about why I felt obliged to write it. Because I’ve committed to writing it here, in such a public place, again and again? Because I’ve put more than four years into writing, notes and research? Because a book like this ought to exist for homeschooling parents? Because I feel I owe it to you, my steady little band of regular readers?
I played with the idea of putting the book aside. I thought about what it would be like to write, instead, the sort of personal essays that I stopped writing and submitting to magazines when I started working on the book. This idea has been haunting me since January, when I wrote a series of mini-essays for the Rhythm of the Home blog and discovered how much I missed essay writing.
I got rather worked up about the idea of writing essays again. I let myself get worked up.
I worked on an essay that I started earlier this year and tied that baby up. It felt good.
I thought about this blog and what I might do with it. What if I ended it altogether? What if I let it become something different? What if I kept writing for parents here, exploring the ideas that I’ve developed for the Big Writing Book simply because many of you seem to appreciate having this blog as a resource? What if I only posted here when I wanted to–not because I felt obligated to?
And what if I kept writing here without regard for blog stats and subscription rates? I liked that idea. I liked it a lot. I ignored them for the rest of the month.
I went on a family trip to the East Coast to visit colleges with Lulu. I got excited about the possibilities for her and tried to overlook the fact that she is bent on living across the country, like her older brother, as of next fall. I fell in love with cannoli in Boston’s Little Italy and vowed to go back. I tried not to get too attached to Providence. We visited the MOMA and H’s new apartment in Brooklyn and I ate meatballs without meat.
I continued to ignore my blog and Facebook and Twitter.
I kept working on essays.
We went camping with our homeschool group. For, maybe, the twenty-fifth time.
I became obsessed with this company. With their products and Nadine’s interviews and the website’s wacky, hippy-dippy vibe. I had fun learning about essential oils while ignoring social media.
I took lots of walks and did yoga.
I wrote a long-winded post about all of this and decided that I’m bored with writing long-winded posts.
I made a list instead and let it go at that.
Turning blogging into a chore is a sure way to kill the joy of it (in my experience, anyway). And for what it’s worth, I hate pop-ups on blogs. And I’m not on Facebook, I *hate* Facebook, and I don’t have a Facebook page for my website, because maybe I’m “supposed” to, but I don’t *want* to.
Comments are weird and stats are weird and do what you love and it’ll all be alright in the end. My two cents.
Of course I agree with you on all of this, Amy. But it really took some time away to realize how long I have been trying to “build” this blog–and to realize that I can ditch all that if I want to. And I want to.
Here’s to doing what we love and letting stuff fall where it falls!
Follow your bliss. Let go of the feelings and fears that do not serve you. You inspire many, but we can also be inspired by your honesty and joy. These will come through in whatever written manifestations you put forth.
Happy happy to hear you are making YOURSELF, your creativity, your love for deeply-rooted writing (even if it’s simply deeply-rooted in whimsy…) making these tngs a priority.
Thank you for the support, Melanie!
I rarely leave comments, but I’ve been checking your blog a few times a week since your last post. It’s so helpful to me and honestly, along with the Project Based Homeschooling blog, has transformed our homeschool! I appreciate what you post and look forward to see how you move forward. Unless you move forward by not posting anymore … I wouldn’t look forward to that 😉
Thanks for checking in since my last post, Laura! It really is good to know that people do that. You can subscribe so you get an email when I have a new post, so you don’t have to keep checking, you know. 😉
I’ll be here. I’ll just be here because I want to be here–not because I’m trying to “build” anything.
That- “I’ll be here. I’ll just be here because I want to be here–not because I’m trying to “build” anything.”
That’s what I was hoping you’d say.
Yes, well I should have said it in the post. I wasn’t meaning to string you all along! Just taking you through the wild and crazy-making thing called my thought process.
xo right back.
i do hope that this blog will not disappear altogether. it is one of my trusted sources i read and return to and refer to others for so many things having to do with homeschooling and writing. plus i just like to read what you write. you capture moments and feelings and processes and ideas in ways that i can easily relate to. you inspire me, you reassure me, you give me insights.
i wish you all the best in whatever path you choose. i’ll keep following you, for all the reasons i mentioned above.
The notion of discontinuing the blog altogether was just a possibility I played with, Dawn. It didn’t last long. I should have made that clear!
Hearing that you “just like to read” what I write means a lot. I’m glad I make you think. I couldn’t ask for more than that. Thank you.
This post pretty much sums up my own ambivalence about blogging. Playing the blog-building game can be exhausting and take away from the enjoyment of the best part about it–the writing!
I do very much appreciate each of your posts, even if I am not a very good commenter. I recently began “official” homeschool kindergarten with my daughter and am so pleased to have discovered your approach, which rings very true to me. I love the posts and resources here about mentoring your child, but I do also love your essays.
So, I guess I’m saying that however (if ever?) you decide to use this space in the future, I’ll be happily along for the ride 🙂
Good to know that you can relate, Alanna. I feel sort of bad–I didn’t write this post to get sympathy comments. I wrote it because I imagined there must be others like me who get blinded by stats and readership. It’s always good to commiserate!
How exciting to be just starting out as a homeschooler! Enjoy it all. I’m glad to know that you’ll be happily along for the ride; I’ll be here.
Don’t go!!! Unless you really want to, that is. But I will miss you. Thank you for sharing your art so selflessly. You will have inspired more people than the stats indicate – I know this for a fact. I know this because the 18 kids in my class who had a phenomenal year of Writers Workshop thanks to you, don’t leave comments on your blog or stats on your page. That they now love to write, are skilled writers, can critique each others’ work – priceless. And now, 18 more kids who are eagerly awaiting our first workshop after the October break – more stats. As a fellow blogger, I often write posts in my mind that never make it to my blog. I used to fret about that. Now I just continue to play with my little four month old baby girl and not sweat it. When I HAVE to write, I do, and I am enjoying it. Thanks for all your inspiration. x
As I was reading your post I felt understanding, empathy and appreciation that you were writing so openly and honestly. I think that is what makes your blog so interesting – it is honest. I don’t feel you are writing it for any reason other than because you love writing and you want to share your passion. I so enjoy reading your blogs.
After reading this post, I scrolled down through the comments and was surprised to see one from Sonya – my good friend. However, she lives in Germany and I live in China and we have never even talked about your blog! That must mean something 🙂
So, just to let you know, you are reaching many people all over the world.
All the best with your decision. Thanks for sharing your life, your family and your love of writing.
Thank you for appreciating my honesty, Marina. That was why I wrote this post: I figured there must be others who get distracted by stats and readership, who might be relieved to know they’re not alone. (I wasn’t doing it for sympathy comments, honest!)
Wow about your connection with Sonya, and finding her here! You’re right: that must mean something! It gives me goose bumps!
Thank you for the very kind words.
I love it! I love that there is this little connection. You are reaching more than homeschoolers, Patricia. Your work….I just love it. Marina….it is so great, right? I love the format and the independence that the kids develop. Looking forward to starting with my new class.
Oh, I won’t go, Sonya. Quitting the blog altogether was just a fleeting thought I had. I should have made that clear.
I love hearing about your students, and how they’ve workshopped and love to write! (And how they don’t factor in my stats. Ha!) It’s funny–I wrote that book for all the right reasons. I just wanted to get it out there so parents (and teachers!) who wanted to try out a workshop might do it. I didn’t write it to build anything, and I’ve never cared much how well it sold. I’m glad to be looking at the blog the same way, finally.
Have fun with that new class of kids in Germany–and with your new baby daughter! Congratulations! xo.
Ummm, yeah. To all that.
I regularly take blog sabbaticals and then go into hyperdrive prompting and then back off.
I think it is harder to grow an audience without the support of social media. I use FB all the time, but on my own terms. And holy wow – the deep friendships that have been born in these groups! People have started meeting each other in real life and initiating new groups and connections…It has been shocking and I have had to readjust my feeling about FB. There is a power for such good there.
Pinterest is probably the best way to drive readership. There are tons of ideas on how to use it. I do it sporadically and can see that it really stays. Some of my posts still get reposted YEARS later (into the tens of thousands). And even all those repins do not convert into loyal readers – a handful have and it slowly grows.
I love your work (as you know) and hope that you stay around and keep writing. Your perspective is so needed and I am always passing your website on to others.
And what a great realization that you can make it anything you want. Every once in a while it hits me – I am just making this whole thing up. There are no rules and I can experiment all I want.
I imagine you would get what I’m talking about, Amy. You have such a fantastic readership.
I appreciate your thoughts about Facebook. I’ve finally come around to accepting the FB thing in recent months. It does drive traffic to my blog like nothing else, so I may as well have fun with it! It’s really neat to hear that people in your labs make such deep connections–but that comes as no surprise to me! I think you’re a visionary.
Thank you for the supportive words, and for sharing my work with others. I’ll be around. I’ll just be here because I want to. It feels really good to recognize that I don’t need to work on building readership to do what I want to do. I can just do it.
Love this: “Every once in a while it hits me – I am just making this whole thing up. There are no rules and I can experiment all I want.” Yes! Here’s to making it up as we go!
For what it’s worth… I’ve missed you, and have been wondering where you were! I’m so pleased I found your blog and have loved reading it. I’d be sad if you went away, but I’d like to read some of those essays too! And if writing those instead would make you happy, then that’s exactly what you should do. X
I’m not going anywhere, Kirsten. That was just an idea I considered briefly. I should have been clear about that. I’ll be here. I’ll just be here because I want to–not because I’m trying to “build” anything. Thank you for missing me! xo.
Keeping things going for a long time is hard, especially online where we are accustomed to getting some sort of instant feed back for what we write or quote or photograph. I do think your blog is a wonderful resource, and even more so I have loved watching your family’s journey, but you need to look inward to figure out what you want to do, which is what you did. This is your space, if you feel drawn to doing something new with it I personally will come back because it is your voice I like most of all.
Stacey, thank you for reading, for using my blog as a resource, for being interested in my family’s journey. But hearing that it’s my voice that you like “most of all” is one of the nicest things you could say to me. Shucks, thank you for that especially!
“I’ll just be here because I want to–not because I’m trying to “build” anything.”
That is probably the more fun way to go about it. 🙂 Whichever way you decide to go with your writing, I’ll be reading! Best wishes to you as you figure it all out!
Definitely more fun. Such a small mental shift, but it feels so good not to care about numbers. Thanks for reading, Kelley!
I’m not one to leave many comments, Patricia, but I want you to know that I only read two blogs religiously, no matter how busy I am, and you’re one of them. I have been inspired by your writing and honesty and I have begun a small writer’s workshop group for children because of your inspiration! Do what you love and love what you do! Peace and love to you.
I’m one of your two? Well, that is awfully nice to hear. And you started a writer’s workshop! Little pleases me more than to hear someone say that! I hope you’ll report back on how it’s going on the book’s community page.
“Do what you love and love what you do!” That’s some of the best advice there is. Thanks, Lori.
Just the other day I sent someone IRL to check out your blog posts on writing. You (and those very same posts) are the reason I ditched the homeschool writing programs. What freedom! To think that I found a resource that resonated with me so much that I felt confident enough to wing it on my own. Yay Patricia, thank you! I visit you here almost religiously and often find myself re-reading “How We Homeschool” when I have doubts creep in about our interest-led learning approach. You ARE the reason I finally committed to it. I find we need a routine around here to keep our sanity so our mornings to “together time” where I offer up my services to my girls in whatever capacity they need me. This is how I’ve been able to find our sweet spot and the ability to let go and trust my children. All this to say that your writing has helped this momma out in more ways than you can imagine.
I’m so glad you’re staying! Be well.
I’m the reason you ditched the homeschool writing programs? Well, yowza! That makes me happy. And I’m glad that somehow I’ve helped you find your “sweet spot” and your own way. That’s what it’s all about! Thank you for taking the time to share this with me, Cassie. It means a lot. Have fun with those girls!
The comment trap … yes, as more people receive your blog by email, and then read on their phones … or somewhere in their busy day, the comments drop off. Since I refuse to understand/check stats I remain blissfully unaware and have simply been in love with the wonderful friends I have made in attending blog conference irl.
But the crazy … I do get it …. instead, I write for the love.
Keep doing what you love, we love you right back.
Yes, the crazy! Somehow I had this idea that to blog well, you have to make sure that your blog is growing. That’s something I’ve been trying to do since the beginning, and it’s certainly been disappointing and crazy-making at times. Boy, does it feel good to finally leave the numbers behind and realize that I’m just here for the love too. And for all of you! Thanks for the encouragement, Nicole. xo.
I think every writer/blogger has struggled with this. I had to decide early on that I would use my space as a form of connection or nothing at all. Of course, I am happy when folks are reading, but it is the friendships that I have made that have been life altering. And I do mean that.
I actually met three blogging friends over the course of this year. And was able(thanks to YOU and others who encouraged through their writing) to think that I too, could home school my high schooler without disastrous results.
So thanks for being you. And I will be happy with whatever you decide to share here. It adds value to my life, so thanks!
I figured that other bloggers have struggled with this stuff, Emmie, which is why I wanted to share it. I’ve also had profound experiences connecting with people here–and in person too! It makes sense, I suppose. The people who care to read our blogs must have a certain kindred-spiritness.
It’s so exciting that you’re homeschooling a high schooler. I’m honored to have been a small part of that decision.
Thank you for your kindness.
I would be sad if you ended your blog! So much inspiration!
I have a blog too and my philosophy is to look mostly at total views
And to remember that just helping ONE person
is what counts!
“…just helping ONE person
is what counts!”
Yes. That’s so important to remember. (And you are all very kindly reminding me!) Thank you, Gina.
I’m so thankful as I read through these comments that I see you plan to continue to write here! But that’s selfish on my part because as so many others have said, you have to write when, where and however you’re inspired to do so. I enjoy reading your writing and know that whatever direction you head, I’ll learn something and feel inspired by what you share. Thanks for spending some of your creative energy with us!
Well, it does feel good to be wanted, Cathy! So, thank you. I do love being here with all of you. I think I just needed to let go of what I thought I was “supposed” to do, and enjoy what I have. All the best to you!
I don’t comment often on any blogs, but I do read. Yours in one I have in my MUST READ folder on Feedly. Please keep posting, whatever the schedule you choose. You’ve helped me completely rethink my approach to teaching my children writing. And watch out, I may be shooting you some questions in the Spring when I plan to teach a Writing Workshop based on your ebook. Would LOVE LOVE LOVE to see that big book of writing you are talking about too!
I’m honored to be in your MUST READ folder, kat! I’m so happy that I’ve helped you rethink how to approach writing with your kids. And I’m really happy that you’re planning to start up a workshop! I’d love to help you out if you have questions. Maybe you’d consider posting any questions to the book’s Community page, so others can benefit from your questions as well. http://patriciazaballos.com/community/
Knowing I can try to help people in this space helped me put aside the book for now, and that seems to be the right decision for the time being. Don’t worry–I’m sure I will be yammering about writing on a regular basis here. Thank you for deciding to comment this time!
I’ve noticed a lot of bloggers falling to wayside or posting less. Just post when you want. I do. When I have something to say I’ll say it otherwise I don’t worry about it at all. Now that we are actually homeschooling I find myself too busy to do much of anything on the internet. After taking Amanda’s class I’m too busy writing my huge fiction story to spend time wandering around hoping my blog states will be higher.
I love this blog though. Don’t take it down. I use it as a resource to help my new writer/reader. 🙂
You are wise, KC, and I am getting there. 🙂 It feels good to leave the stats behind–now that I’ve allowed myself to ignore them, it’s pretty darned easy to ignore them!
“After taking Amanda’s class I’m too busy writing my huge fiction story to spend time wandering around hoping my blog states will be higher.” It’s so fantastic that Amanda’s class was such an inspiration to you, and that you’ve continued writing! I’m right there with you: I’ve been writing more these days and I think that gives me better things to think about than blog stats.
I won’t take the blog down; I’ll even keep coming back here. I’m so glad the blog is helpful to you.
I think that all sounds perfect. 🙂
I’m always tickled to see that you’re still reading along, Melissa. Thank you!
It sounds like you needed a little down time. Downtime is necessary for adults too (not just kids). It’s hard to keep up with everything, well. Maybe on your last post everyone was taking a break too! Who knows?
But keeping yourself healthy and engaged has never been a problem for you–you always find your way.
BTW: I’m happy to add the link to your new obsession to my reader.
Thanks for the chat about all of this at the park yesterday, Kristin. It was a good conversation. I’m lucky to have you as a friend!
(Giggling about my new obsession. The videos are a kick, but the interviews are seriously interesting. Remind me to bring some of the things I’ve ordered to the park so you can smell them!)
Hi Patricia –
I thought I had posted a comment here, but then I think I got called away from my computer in the middle of it. Just one reason you feel like you speaking out into the ether!
I wanted to let you know that the post you refer to was a GREAT ONE. So good, in fact, that I had to take time to process it. I have gone back and reread it several times. Often I read what you have to say and then take days to digest it. That’s a good thing. Means that you are inspiring thought on a deep level. I don’t always respond, but I do really appreciate your wisdom!
Having just started a blog, I know what you mean about the business of it, though. If you take the time to post something, usually it is something you feel very strongly about. We all want to feel heard. I know when I get no response (or in my case, no traffic!) I ask myself why I want to do it in the first place. I don’t have that answer yet, but I guess the core must be simply for the joy of writing….
Nancy Carol, thank you for the kind words about my last post. I’m happy to know that it was helpful to you. I have a follow-up brewing which I’ll post–when I feel like it! 😉
I’ve moved so beyond the business of blogging in the past month, and it feels great! Of course, I am fortunate enough to have a wonderful little band of regular readers like you, so I know someone is reading along. For me, blogging is about writing and connecting. I hope you find joy in both with your new blog!
I agree: I started my own blog to try and, I don’t know, feel like I was doing something ‘properly’ but you know, it’s just not me. I’ll post when the spirit moves me and now we’re just starting homeschool (my DD is a 5yo montessori drop out so we are really brand new to this) it’ll be a different type of place. I found your article on “The Never-At-Home Homeschoolers” from Mothering in 2008 and it fills me with such hope and happiness – please keep writing, when you feel like it. Building blog numbers and everything else just feels like another stick to beat ourselves with, surely the opposite of what we’re trying to help our children do! But don’t stop writing either – I love your style.
“Building blog numbers and everything else just feels like another stick to beat ourselves with, surely the opposite of what we’re trying to help our children do!” You can’t really put it any better than that, Katherine! Thank you. I’m glad that my Mothering article was useful to you. It has a special place in my heart as it was the first thing I published; I’m planning to make it into a PDF for sharing soon.
Best of luck starting out as homeschoolers. Keep things fun!
I found your blog at a time of need and it helped us over humps in homeschooling. Thank you! While I will miss your posts, I applaud you for following what you need!
I’m happy to hear that the blog was helpful, Sarah! Never fear–I’ll still be posting here. Maybe not as often, but I’ll be here. 🙂
My dear Patricia (I mean that in the most not patronizing way possible) I didn’t read the other comments here so I’m sure this has all been said before, but as a 9 year blogger, with, what appears to be a shrinking numbers, after a nice little peak two years ago – I TOTALLY hear you. I stopped the stats madness last spring. Because it doesn’t make sense to me either.
I’ve been stewing on a “my numbers suck but it doesn’t matter” post idea, which I’m sure I’ll never write because I have too many other good things to talk about. But here’s how it stands for me: as my numbers drop (they’ve actually leveled off but I miss those heady days of numbers going up and up…) my actual engagement with individuals increases. ANd it turns out this is more inline with my mission statement for my blog and my life, than growth.
I’ve read the books, I’ve followed the blogging advice, I’ve done the conference and it nauseates me right now to even care about numbers. I do care though about Ellen, Alaina, Catherine, Aaron, Kelly, Kelsi, Marianna, Sarah, Amanda, Melissa, Michelle, Lisa etc. I care about supporting them in their homeschool journey. About supporting their family dreams with gutsy (for me) writing. I care about them as people, not numbers.
Numbers who will buy, numbers who will read, numbers who will comment. Just people, like me.
Blogs seem very commoditized these days. It’s something I wrestle with all the time.
Much more to say on the subject and no time to say it.
Oh, Renee, yes you do get where I’m coming from! In fact, your posts this year about your own shifts have been incredibly helpful to me. It was so useful to me to read your thoughts on not wanting to make your blog a commodity.
It’s funny: I think I was simply doing what I thought I was supposed to do while blogging. Build an audience. Increase the numbers. And I know enough about nonfiction publication to understand that agents and publishers these days want to make sure you have a platform before they’ll even consider your book proposal. So it felt like building an audience here was essential for that book on writing that I’ve been working at for so long.
But ever since I shifted gears and put that book on the back burner, and decided that I could stop paying attention to stats and subscribers, I’m so much happier! I’m loving the writing work I’m doing, and I’m writing more than I have in a long time. I still feel compelled to blog, for those same personal connections you speak of. How I love these lines: “I do care though about Ellen, Alaina, Catherine, Aaron, Kelly, Kelsi, Marianna, Sarah, Amanda, Melissa, Michelle, Lisa etc. I care about supporting them in their homeschool journey. About supporting their family dreams with gutsy (for me) writing. I care about them as people, not numbers.” Yes! That’s it! When I let the personal emails and comments about how I’ve helped a family matter more than statistics, those personal connection resonate more. They’re what matters, and they making me want to keep writing here, and trying to offer a little something to people.
Thank you for giving me a healthier blogging model to keep in mind, Renee, and for being a positive connection in this world of blogging. Thank you for taking the time to share your thoughts on this. xo right back at you!